- Phone: (913) 268-6500
- Mailing Address: 11400 Johnson Drive, Shawnee, KS 66203
It is hard adjusting, I’ll admit it. The situation with Covid-19 is marginalizing the church experience. We are a long way from the 3 or 4 church service routine that some of us grew up with! At this point we meet once a week for over an hour. That’s a big change!
On the other hand it could be worse. In a number of countries churches are not allowed to meet at all, under penalty of severe punishment. My friends in Uganda have not met since all of this began at the first of the year.
Even in the US, California churches are being told they cannot meet with more than 100 people at maximum. Responses have been interesting. Grace Community Church in Van Nuys and Calvary Chapel Chino are both defying Governor Newsom’s order. By contrast, Andy Stanley’s North Pointe Community Church in Atlanta and Crossroads Church in Cincinnati have chosen to cancel church meetings until 2021. Churches vary in their response as much as individual Christians.
This will all eventually settle into some new norm, but until it does, what does it mean to be the church?
We all probably realize that church in the first century was not like today. We use the word “church” to refer to a building or a service. The word was not used this way in the New Testament. In fact, the word “service” somehow developed through the ages but is absent in the New Testament. It all makes one wonder how much the church can change and still be the church?
The church certainly gathered together (Acts 14:27, 15:30; 1 Cor. 5:4, 11:18, etc.) regularly (Heb. 10:25). For a time early on they gathered daily (Acts 2:46). The primary meeting of the church seems to have settled on “the Lord’s day,” Sunday. Paul’s all night preaching service at Troas is a good example (Acts 20:6-12). John specifically mentions meeting on the Lord’s day (Rev. 1:10). Paul gives specific instructions to the church at Corinth about their offerings on Sundays (1 Cor. 16:2). There is a strong tradition of the church meeting on Sunday, and an earlier tradition of them meeting every day.
But does this mean that if we cannot meet on Sundays we cannot follow the New Testament blueprint for being a church? Of course not. There is an old tradition, but no command, to meet on Sundays. There is no command in Scripture to meet weekly. I think it’s a great tradition, but it is not a command. Christians have a tendency to confuse traditions with commands, but this is a tendency best fought.
Our Christian duty is to obey the government (Rom. 13:1-7) but to foremost obey God (Acts 4:19, 5:29). When the local leadership told the Apostles to stop sharing the Gospel, they flatly refused. If we were told we could never meet together in any context or at any time, I would defy. We have not yet hit that kind of prohibition, and I pray we never do.
Until some new kind of normalcy presents itself, let’s be the church by gathering when we can. By sharing the Gospel as individual believers and meeting as we can. And by "encouraging one another to love and good deeds" whenever we can. When we are able to follow the ancient traditions again as we are accustomed, we will.
And until then, of course we can be the church. More on Sunday.